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WinterSports Hot Sheet: Lift accidents, slopestyle & lost resorts

2010 is ending on a strange note at ski resorts as a rash of chairlift accidents and snowboarder deaths has swept across the country. On the positive side, Colorado Ski Country is re-issuing its famous Lost Resorts poster, and slopestyle looks to be on track to becoming an Olympic event.

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Sugarloaf Mountain reports that inspectors from the State of Maine Board of Elevators and Tramways, along with mountain operations personnel are investigating the “deropement” of the Spillway East chairlift, which took place at approximately 10:30am on December 28, 2010.

Investigators believe that high winds were a contributing factor in the accident, which resulted in eight people being sent to the hospital with injuries after the chairs they were riding struck the snow. Sugarloaf ski patrol estimates that as many as 150 people had to be evacuated from the lift following the accident.

Sugarloaf experienced high winds immediately following a major snowstorm which dropped 22 inches of snow on the resort on Dec. 27, the day before the accident. As a result, several lifts at the resort, including the Spillway East chairlift, were placed on wind hold at the start of operations on the 28th.

A detailed report will be issued by the State of Maine Board of Elevators and Tramways once the investigation is complete.

“Our two primary concerns right now are for the rapid recovery of those injured yesterday and the safety of all Sugarloaf guests,” said Sugarloaf spokesman Ethan Austin. “We’re incredibly grateful for the help offered by local and state agencies.”

Lift malfunction at Whiteface results in employee injury

On Dec. 29, 2010, the day after the Sugarloaf accident, there was a lift malfunction on Lift I (Freeway Lift) on Little Whiteface Mountain, in Wilmington, N.Y. Seventy-six people were on the lift at the time of the incident and one employee injury was reported.

An investigation is underway as to the cause of the incident, but it has been determined that the malfunction was not caused by wind and the lift line and chairs were never in danger of falling to the ground.

“First, our thoughts are with those affected and we are thankful that there were no serious injuries. One ski patrol staff member suffered an injury during the evacuation and is being evaluated,” said New York State Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) president/CEO Ted Blazer. “The Whiteface crew and responders did an outstanding job following procedure and evacuating the lift, ensuring everyone’s safety.”

The malfunction occurred at 10:58 a.m. and immediately Whiteface ski patrol began skiing the lift line, notifying the people on the lift about the situation. The lift was fully evacuated by 12:45 p.m.

Slopestyle Confirmed for World Freestyle Champs

Slopestyle skiing has been confirmed for the International Ski Federation’s (FIS) Freestyle World Ski Championships being hosted this February by Deer Valley and Park City Mountain Resorts. The slopestyle event, which is one of three new action sports events being considered for inclusion in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, will be held at Park City Mountain Resort.

FIS Freestyle World Ski Championship’s organizers confirmed that slopestyle would be added to the schedule on Feb. 3, 2010, with qualification runs taking place a day earlier. The event will be held on Park City Mountain Resort’s King’s Crown run. Park City is also the site of the halfpipe competition, while moguls, dual moguls, aerials, as well as ski cross, will be held at Deer Valley Resort.

Slopestyle skiing, as well as halfpipe skiing, and slopestyle snowboarding, was given support for 2014 inclusion by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) at its Executive Committee meeting in September. The final approval for these action sports to make it onto the Sochi, Russia Olympic schedule will come following a review of the new sports taking place during World Championship competitions this season.

Colorado Ski Country announces 2nd edition of Lost Resorts poster

Colorado’s Lost Resorts poster is being released in a second edition from Colorado Ski Country USA. The poster commemorating Colorado’s ski history is newly updated and redesigned.

The poster accounts for 169 Colorado ski areas including nearly 140 areas that were once in operation but have now ceased to exist, citing their location on a state map and giving a brief description of the resorts? existence. In addition to lost resorts, the poster shows the location of resorts currently in business as well as town areas still operating.

Underneath a state map which pinpoints each resort is a list of the 20 “Most Memorable” resorts and a few notes about each one. The remaining resorts are presented in chapters defined as Recently Lost, Long Ago and Long Long Ago and are also designated by location on the map.

The original Lost Resorts poster was created in 1999 by Colorado Ski Country USA with input from ski historians. Updates include finding one lost resort, the opening of a new resort and two resorts joining the lost.

In the news…The Associated Press reports that “A rogue gust of wind derailed a popular chairlift on Christmas Day to leave dozens of skiers dangling until rescued at the Mission Ridge Ski & Board Resort” in Wenatchee, Wash. Facility engineers and ski patrol members lowered 56 skiers to safety when Chairlift No. 2 stalled. No one was injured…The blizzard that hit the Northeast over Christmas weekend postponed about $1 billion in holiday retail sales by keeping shoppers out of stores according the research firm ShopperTrak. The firm said sales for the entire November and December holiday period are still on track to be up 4 percent…The Jackson Hole Daily reports that the widow of a Wilson man killed two years ago by an in-bounds avalanche at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort sued the resort last week in 9th District Court. Christine Nodine is seeking an unspecified amount of damages for the loss of her husband, David, who was buried in a slide Dec. 27, 2008, on the Toilet Bowl run…and Megan Michelson of ESPN Action Sports reports that seven people have died inbounds at ski areas across the country, the majority of them young male snowboarders. Michelson writes that, “In the past few decades, the number of annual ski- and snowboard-related injuries has decreased but the number of yearly ski and snowboard inbounds deaths has remained steady at about 40.”

–Peter Kray

On Oct. 6, 2010, veteran journalist Peter Kray joined the SNEWS team and is now editor of the new SNEWS WinterSports channel. We trust you are enjoying the full offering of WinterSports news. Be sure to email your friends and let them know the best WinterSports news has arrived — just in time for the start of the winter season. Got WinterSports news? Send your WinterSports news to Kray at Subscribers can also post WinterSports news releases directly to the SNEWS website. Email us at to learn about posting your own news releases, or for any other questions or comments. We love to hear from our readers!